Letter: History cannot be changed with marker

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 22, 2021

After waiting and debating if I should, I would like to make some comments about the new “historical marker erected downtown. My comments are just about the murders of the Lyerly family by Jack Dillingham and John and Nease Gillespie. I think the marker was rather vague about the full scope of the murders as the real victims here were the Lyerly family, not the killers.

On July 13, 1906, my great-great Aunt Martha Jane August Barringer Lyerly; her husband, Isaac Lyerly; and two of her little children, John, 8, and Alice, 6, were killed in bed at their home. The three that murdered them committed many felonies that night, but they lost their life because of the premeditated murder they perpetrated. They died for no other reason. If they had not done these crimes and not murdered anyone, they would not have ver been touched to begin with.

As the killing was going on, the other children in the house escaped by jumping out of the house’s windows and running for their lives. They told the authorities who killed their family. They were Mary, 17, Addie, 14, Janie, 13, and Joseph, 11. If they had not run away, they would have no doubt been killed also. Finding them gone, the killers tried to burn the house down to cover their crimes, but this failed.

It was horrible how the innocent Lyerlys were hacked and stabbed to death. It was likewise horrible the way the murderers were killed.

What happened 115 years ago cannot be changed, added to or have anything taken away. It is history. It is what it is. It’s as if some now wish to hijack this tragedy and spin it to their own views and fabrications.

As descendants of the Barringers and the Lyerlys involved, we have opened our arms to take them in. Though dead, they are not far from us. They will rest still and deep within our hearts forever. We do not need a sign to “heal” us. Thank you.

— James C. Walker